Press Release: Selective application of amnesty leaves Mazen Darwish in jail

Paris-Geneva, July 24, 2015 – Granted amnesty, Hussain Ghrer and HaniAl-Zaitani were released on July 17 and July 18, 2015, respectively. Both hadbeen arbitrarily detained since February 2012, for promoting freedom ofexpression and monitoring gross human rights violations committed in Syria. TheObservatory welcomes their release, but expresses its extreme concern for thesituation of their fellow colleague and Director of the Syrian Centre for Mediaand Freedom of Expression (SCM), Mazen Darwish, who is still in prison.

While Mr. Darwish is listed in the amnesty decree granted on theoccasion of Eid al-Fitr, which involved prisoners prosecuted on terrorismcharges, the Director of SCM remains behind bars, despite the fact that hiscolleagues, Messrs Hani Al-Zaitani and Hussain Ghrer have beenreleased.

On July 22, 2015, a verdict hearing in their trial, which had alreadybeen rescheduled twenty-five times since February 2013, was once againpostponed and set for August 31, 2015. Therefore, despite the amnesty decree,judicial harassment of the three human rights defenders does not seems to haveended.

While we welcome the long-awaited release of Hani Al-Zaitani and HussainGhrer, the continued detention of Mazen Darwish and their ongoing judicialharassment illustrate the completely arbitrary procedures the three humanrights defenders have faced since 2012,” declared FIDH President, Karim Lahidji.

Since the beginning of their detention, the three human rights defenderswere held in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance and subjected toacts of torture on several occasions. Most recently, their whereabouts wereunknown from May 3, to June 30, 2015. To date, again, the legal status andwhereabouts of Mr. Darwish remained unclear.

This amnesty is a smokescreen.The bad faith of the Syrian authorities is unacceptable. Mazen Darwish should be releasedimmediately and unconditionally and all charges against the three human rightsdefenders should be dropped,” added OMCT Secretary General, Gerald Staberock.

The Observatory recalls that the UN General Assembly, in Resolution 67/262 adopted on May 15, 2013, called for the releaseof the three defenders. In January 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) also found that the three defendershad been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty due to their human rightsactivities and called for their immediate release. Finally, UN Security Council Resolution 2139, adopted on February 22, 2014 also demanded the releaseof all arbitrarily detained people in Syria.

The Observatory forthe Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) was created in 1997 by FIDHand the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of thisprogramme is to intervene to prevent or remedy to situations of repressionagainst human rights defenders.

For more information, please contact :

  • FIDH : LucieKroening (French / English / German / Arabic) - Tel: +33 6 48 05 91 57(Paris) ; Arthur Manet (French / English / Spanish) - Tel : +336 72 28 42 94 (Paris)
  • OMCT : Miguel MartínZumalacárregui (French / English / Spanish) - Tel: +41 22 809 49 24(Geneva/Brussels)
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